The section of Main Street west of Route 85 by the town common can get pretty tight, especially when cars are parked along the road. Selectmen last night unanimously endorsed a plan to widen that stretch of roadway and create as many as 14 dedicated parking spots.
The land to widen the road has to come from somewhere, and selectmen decided it should be taken from the town common on the north side of the street instead of from private property owners on the south side. That will require some significant changes to the common.
To make room for the road, the 150-year-old stone wall that lines the common will be moved north by two to six feet, and many of the trees on that side of the common will be cut down.
Some of the residents at last night’s meeting questioned why the town should be responsible for creating parking spots for the two businesses on Main Street — Morris Funeral Home and the Stone Health Center — in the first place.
“What we’re talking about is parking for two private businesses, and for that we’re going to sacrifice a public space. I think it’s wrong,” Historical Commission member Kate Mattison said.
Morris Funeral Home owner Steve Morris said it’s not just about parking for his business, it’s about parking for residents. “I’m not just asking for it as a business owner, I’m asking for it as a resident and a tax payer. I should be able to park in front of my own home.”
Selectman John Rooney said that widening the roadway is an issue of public safety. “This is a safety issue for me,” he said. “We cannot frame it as an issue that just relates to widening the road for parking spaces.”
Police Chief Jane Moran said if parking wasn’t allowed on Main Street, cars would end up parking on narrow side streets like Middle Road and Latisquama Road.
Selectman Bill Boland said people have always been able to park on that stretch of Main Street. “Doc Stone has been parking in front of his house since 1947. Now for town to say, too bad Doc, now you can’t park there, I don’t think that’s right.”
Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf said when the stone wall is moved and the trees are taken down, the town should seek Community Preservation Act funds and work with the state to bury the utilities along the common. “If those lines are not buried then looking west across the common toward the library all you’ll see are roughly six to seven telephone polls,” she said.
The work on this section of Main Street is part of a larger plan to redesign the roadway from Sears Road to Park Street. Since the project will be funded by the state, the design approved by selectmen last night still needs to be accepted by MassHighway.
DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan said earlier this year that she hopes construction will begin in 2014.